Maybe, just maybe, Malcolm Turnbull really isn't cut out for this politics business.
How else to explain a display of late-night ineptitude that resulted in Alan Jones addressing the invisible Prime Minister via television as if it were a siege situation, telling him to come out of hiding and do his job? And how to explain the early-morning catastrophe that followed, a Turnbull speech so discordant after the night that had just passed that even blowhards such as Jones and Jeff Kennett seemed lost for words?
"That wasn't a speech, it was a harangue," said Jones, though without venom - he and everyone else seemed too stunned that the Prime Minister could have misread the moment so badly.
On Nine, Laurie Oakes called it "pathetic".
Given the results at the ballot box, the Turnbull tin ear perhaps shouldn't have been such a surprise. And it was also tempting to recall Turnbull's most famous political speech before he became Prime Minister - that Saturday night in 1999 when television audiences witnessed a grandiose concession aria after the republican referendum that ended with him accusing John Howard of being "the prime minister who broke this nation's heart".
This weekend, Turnbull seemed intent on emulating Howard's crime. For the better part of an hour, he was the Prime Minister who sapped our will to live.
As the nation waited for the leaders' speeches - an essential election night tradition regardless of the result or the absence of one - the Prime Minister dithered. He delayed. And worst of all, he disappeared - or at least allowed the nation to get the impression that he might have. Word was about that no one was quite sure where he was, so Channel Seven did the smart thing and plonked a reporter outside his Point Piper home.
What ensued was surely one of the most humiliating moments a prime minister has endured on an election night, and the last thing either Turnbull or the nation needed, given the gears of government had just seized up at the ballot box.
It went like this. Channel Seven's lively panel - which had host Chris Reason corralling the slippery but stage-ready talents of Alan Jones, Mark Latham, Kennett and Jacqui Lambie - were talking live to the reporter outside the Turnbull front gate. The reporter was able to confirm Malcolm and Lucy were indeed inside, and went on to conjure a scenario for what would happen next.
To the visible and audible shock of Seven's panel and no doubt much of its audience, he said it was possible Mr Turnbull was about to do … nothing. No speech to the faithful waiting grimly but patiently for their leader in a Sydney hotel ballroom. No speech to a nation wondering what had happened and when it might have a government again, and of what kind. Nothing. Instead the PM might well go to bed, a plan painted as even more plausible because the Seven reporter had established the PM's car and driver weren't even at the house. This was about 11.15pm, and even with a car he was a 20-minute drive from the party venue.
Smelling a story somewhat over-egged, Reason tried to pull the reporter back a bit - and learnt that this was mostly a mix of conjecture and rumour and tattle from the Prime Minister's security detail at the front gate. So far, so messy - and the image of the PM holed up inside while his security guards gossiped about his travel plans to a hack on the street in the middle of the night made it look bad enough. And even though the accuracy was dodgy, by that point Reason's boisterous panelists were aghast at the idea a prime minister would behave in this way.
That's when it became like a siege situation - with the Prime Minister cast as the traumatised offender refusing to abandon his bunker. We still had no idea if this was true, but Turnbull had done nothing to dissuade us of the notion - and then Jones took matters in hand, looking straight down the camera barrel.
"Malcolm may be watching the Channel Seven broadcast and if you are, Malcolm, you've got to change your mind and come and face the people. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Go and talk to them, reassure them, encourage them, be optimistic towards them, but you've got to go and do the gig, this is part of being the leader."
It was an astonishing television and political moment - Jones effectively branding Turnbull for history as the PM who had to be coaxed from hiding to face his party after an election rebuke. Throw in what followed - a messy departure as the Turnbulls waited for their car at the front gate; a car journey televised live via a pursuing cameraman on a motorbike; and that strident speech - and you had the worst 90 minutes of election night television any prime minister has endured. And that was just Channel Seven.
Over on Sky within that same hour, Andrew Bolt had furiously demanded Turnbull's resignation in terms that made him sound like Saddam Hussein - references to him being "dragged out by his ankles" and "bloodshed". Also on Sky were Peta Credlin and George Brandis, playing out party and policy wars for the cameras. So much going on it was hard to know where to look.
The same couldn't be said for the rest of the evening, which was often too confusing and contradictory, in terms of what the results meant, to be considered truly exciting. We knew what it wouldn't be - a Labor win or clear Coalition majority - but it was a messy business establishing what would come of it. That made it a difficult broadcasting proposition relying heavily on the respective panels' ability to stretch things out and make the confusing entertaining.
Nine and Seven had their gimmicks - the Crusher at Nine, the Departure Lounge at Seven - to dispatch losing MPs. Nine also had a heavyweight and mostly serious panel - Oakes, Karl Stefanovic, Lisa Wilkinson hosting with panellists including Peter Costello and Kim Beazley - that had them offering some competition to the ABC in the gravitas stakes.
Aunty had its indispensable guru Antony Green sharing duties with Leigh Sales, Chris Uhlmann and Annabel Crabb - and while it was as competent as ever, it struggled to hold your attention as the night dragged on. This was partly because its opposing political powerhouses were Penny Wong and Scott Morrison - the latter an acquired taste for some viewers, especially when he's on defence and spinning furiously as the numbers went south.
At the end of the marathon broadcast - seven hours with no ad breaks, apparently an ABC election record - the ever-composed Sales let slip a candid joke: "Suck on that, Kerry O'Brien."
And really, in the end it was no contest once Seven grabbed hold of the night and ran with its Turnbull-chasing adventures and its gobsmacking Alan Jones siege-of-Point-Piper moment. It might have been a cheap stunt - we still don't know what the Prime Minister was doing at home for so long - but it was the defining moment of this election night, reflecting a humbled and rattled Turnbull - and a nation plainly unsure of what to make of him any more.